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Archive for the category “Motherly Wisdom”

Back to School Flashback

This summer my mom delivered two gigantic Rubbermaid containers filled with assignments, art projects, and other school memorabilia from grades kindergarten through 12.  I now know where those tests, assignments, and paintings went when they left the refrigerator.  Definitely not to the trash in our household.  As we celebrate the first day of school here in Wisconsin, I thought I would share a few of the treasures I found.  But more importantly, I want to encourage and maybe inspire any parents out there to keep a few Rubbermaid containers for your children.  Going through the stacks was like unlocking a treasure chest of memories.  Priceless.

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You’ve likely heard of a “staycation” but I’m guessing a “Momcation” is not a standard word in your vocabulary. A Momcation is the time a mother spends away from her children in order to relax and revive. In this new mom’s case I’m classifying it as the four hours I had out of the house this week where I brushed my teeth, put on real pants (the kind without an elastic waistband, and, wait for it… put on a bra. I hopped into my station wagon and wandered the aisles of Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Babies R Us. All sans baby.

The fun started at Bed Bath and Beyond, picked up a rice cooker with a timer so we can come home to complete meals and not need to cook at night. Then Buy Buy Baby for some baby proofing gear that will become all too necessary in a few months. Babies R Us was the next stop, this was a bust but I did manage to pick up Alex two swimsuits on ridiculous sale for her to wear at swim class this winter and next summer. Headed to the photo store to print a few pictures. Then Momcation went into high gear as I headed to Target. One hour and a new toilet brush, welcome mat, and box of Dots later this Momcation was complete. All that was left was the drive home, while eating my box of Dots, and enjoying the beautiful sunny weather. Yes, my life really is that glamorous.

Moms of the world, what do I need to include in my next Momcation to make it even more wonderful? Time is at a premium. I think friends and chocolate should be included in my next break.

Breakthroughs Abound!

Last week was a BIG week in our household. It was as if Alex turned three months old and decided that some major changes were in order. That whole fourth trimester thing is no joke.


Proof! Empty bottles can happen.

First, the bottle battle has ended. Alex has realized that taking a bottle is in her best interest. I left the house but am told not a single tear was shed. However, Alex has discovered her voice and scolded my mom the entire time. The report was that the baby equivalent of four letter words were being thrown around. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a bribe was involved. When Alex turns four I’m probably going to find out that Grandma promised Alex a pony in order to get her to drink a bottle.

Even Dave gave Alex a bottle while I went for a run. Which leads me to my next breakthrough. I actually passed another runner on Saturday! This is a very big deal for me. Pre-baby my favorite thing to do on a run was to spot other runners in the distance and chase them down and pass them, especially male runners. I logged my first post-baby chase and catch on Saturday. Yes, I do realize this may sound a little strange, even creepy to you, but I love it. One January I chased a group of three male runners for four miles until I passed them at the top of a hill. I realize that the other runners have no idea that we are racing so they can’t fully compete. Only once did I have a man realize that I was in all-out race mode. He sure gave me a run for my money!

I’m also pretty sure I broke a six minute mile on Saturday, breakthrough number three. After two calls from Dave telling me that Alex wouldn’t stop screaming I was in the sprint of my life to get home. I bet people thought I was being chased.


There is a smiling, content baby in this picture.

Next breakthrough, a car ride to remember. Alex HATES riding in the car. She screams until she chokes herself, it’s traumatic for all of us. So we just stay home. In fact, I can count on one hand (maybe 1.5) the number of times I’ve left the house since May for a reason other than a doctor appointment. I know what you are likely thinking, “A baby that doesn’t like the car? Impossible!” It’s true. I had to buy a mirror to make sure Alex was still breathing she screams so hard. Well, on Friday we had a quiet ride. I put a toy in her lap (my standard procedure) and she actually played with it. Now, this was only a ten minute ride and on the way back she was back to screaming, but I now have hope. I can see a small dot of light at the end of this tunnel.

And the final breakthrough was mine. I decided to enjoy every last cuddly minute of my maternity leave and not dwell on the fact that it’s ending. I’m enjoying every minute of every snuggle, even the ones that last from midnight until 3am and then resume again at 5am. It’s made a huge difference. I’ll be as ready as I can be to head back to work. The hardest, most amazing, challenging, rewarding, special summer of my life is coming to a close. But only the season is ending, the rest I get to continue to enjoy.


Thank You, Thank You

A few years back Hillary Clinton wrote a book called, “It Takes a Village [to Raise a Child].”  Today Alex turns three months old which marks the end of her fourth trimester and the end of the time that “experts” identify as the colicky months.  I’m pretty sure the entire village showed up to help us make it through these first three months.  There are a few people who deserve some public recognition though for going beyond what I could have imagined.


First, my mom.  After our first week home with Alex, when Dave was about to go back to work and he was still working two jobs, I realized I couldn’t manage things on my own.  Mom to the rescue!  She came down weekly, not to take care of Alex, but to take care of me so I could be a good mom.  She always left our fridge stocked with healthy meals for the rest of the week and made sure I was eating during the long days and nights.  She’s the reason I got any sleep on some of the toughest days.  Like the time she came down and held Alex for four hours without a complaint, in our cold, dark, basement, standing and pacing around the dehumidifier (the only technique that would keep Alex from crying at that point) so that I could eat, shower, and sleep.  She would put her plans aside to come down and help, not with an agenda to just hold Alex during her happy times, but to help us survive.  I hope I can pay this forward to Alex someday.  Thank you Mom!

Next, thank you Kelly!  It’s been a sanity saver to go through this together and hear that what I’m experiencing is normal and to swap some hilarious texts at 3am.  Kelly turned us on to the Troublesome Tots website, which convinced us to buy our swing and gifted us hours of uninterrupted sleep.  And she sent us the creepy white noise CD that is Alex’s favorite sleep music.  Thank you, thank you.

Thank you Kerry, Jody, and Jennifer for bringing me lunch on days I might not have eaten it otherwise.  Never again will I visit a family with a newborn and not show up with a meal.  And thank you for sharing your mom wisdom or just saying things like, “My kids were like that,” to reinforce that what we were experiencing was normal.

Thank you to all the people who lent us baby gear but an extra special thank you to Lisa and Ted who were at our house in less than five minutes after my request went out with a bouncer and swing.  Also to Eric who picked up the Baby Bjorne bouncer in Pewaukee and rushed it to our house, with lunch.  This was the only piece of equipment that would keep Alex happy for a few minutes and would buy me enough time to shower.  Hallelujah!

Thank you Amanda P. for bringing Dave and I dinner and for passing on her daughter’s cold weather clothes to keep Alex warm at the beginning of this cold summer.

Doula Emili

Doula Emili

Thank you to our doula, Emili.  Not only did she help Dave and I survive a long labor, she didn’t forget about us afterward.  She visited us a few weeks in and generously offered her continuous help and support.


And thank you to Aunt Amanda and Uncle Aaron, Alex’s godparents.  Amanda who came over and held Alex so we could spend the afternoon replacing our broken sink.  Aaron for grabbing the camera and taking the equivalent of professional pictures of Alex on her first day in the world.  Such special photos we will cherish forever.

The kindness and generosity of people over the last three months has taught me a lot.  I have so much respect and zero judgment for the moms of the world.  I’ll be generous with my time to new parents and always bring food.  And I will have complete empathy for parents who say they are sleep deprived and will actually understand what that means.

Thank you all.  I’m looking forward to paying it forward someday.  I finally get it.

August 19th… Extra Hugs Appreciated

I return to work in exactly one month.  I’m so sad and completely terrified.

I really want to get back to work. I love my job; it fulfills me in an important way.  There is no question about whether or I not I will go back, but I am still very sad and scared for both Alex and I.  I know people say that moms cry harder than babies when they are dropped off at daycare. I really hope that is the case for us, but I’m doubtful in our situation.  There are two main reasons, the bottle and some intense mama’s girl behavior.

"Yuck!  No fake boobies for me!" Alexandra Grassl

“Yuck! No fake boobies for me!” Alexandra

First, the bottle. We have had three fluke occasions where Alex has taken a bottle.  Otherwise she flat out refuses. The plastic nipple just touching her lips can throw her into a complete frenzy.  If she’s the slightest bit hungry it is even worse.  I can’t help but worry about her crying and screaming because she won’t eat.  First screaming because she is hungry, then crying because she wants mommy and mommy isn’t coming.

"Mom, where you at?  This isn't funny."  Alexandra Grassl

“Mom, where you at? This isn’t funny.” Alexandra

Then there is the mommy’s girl factor.  Alex and I have been together 24/7 for almost three months.  We’ve had a total of about three hours apart and it is frighteningly apparent how much Alex loves her mommy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed to know how much she loves me, I love her even more.  My mind goes back to her first few weeks of life when I actually worried if she would love me.  During that time as a mom you are giving everything to your baby and getting zero feedback.  The ceiling is more interesting for them to stare at than your face and there is no such thing as a loving coo or squawk from their lips, just demanding screams.  That has all changed.  Alex now watches my every move, gives me huge smiles, and chats with me regularly.  She also cries for me constantly.  Not because she is hungry, because she just wants me.

Lately I’ve been trying to practice being away from Alex. Last week my mom and I practiced.  I stayed in a different part of the house while she put Alex down for a nap.  In the morning it worked beautifully.  In the afternoon Alex cried the slowest, most mournful cry I’ve ever heard.  She carried on until my mom passed her back to me.  She instantly stopped crying and in less than one minute she was asleep in my arms.

Alex and I repeat this same process multiple times per day between her dad and I as well. It’s always the same, Alex is fed and happy, I give her to Dave to put her to bed or a nap or even just to play, she cries her sad “mom cry” until he places her back in my arms.  At that instant she will stop crying and fall asleep.  The whole thing is completely upsetting for me.  It melts my heart that she loves me so much but then I am instantly consumed with my fears of what she will do when I’m not there, especially when I work late nights those first few weeks back.  It’s hard for me to handle the idea of her crying for me and me not responding to those cries.

I do find comfort in the fact that my mom will be watching her my first week back.  If Alex screams and cries it will be in the most loving of arms (in fact, if the two of them keep hanging out Alex’s first sentence will likely be, “Grandma loves you”).  I hope that eases the transition for both of us.

For now Alex and I will keep practicing, both with the bottle and separation.  If you happen to see me August 19th and I’m looking pretty ragged, hugs are welcome.

Who Needs a Treadmill?

Because Alex still won’t take a bottle I’ve temporarily retired from running. I’ve gone running twice since she’s been born and it’s just too hard right now to be gone and know that when I get back I’ll be greeted by a mad, hungry baby. Even if I have just fed her she seems to know when I walk out the door and gets hungry (I also think she can sense whenever I’m in the shower or about to eat a meal).

Despite not running I’ve gotten a total body workout the last 10 weeks. Here’s how…

The Hallway:  Pretty Boring.  Imagine hours pacing this, it's a recipe for insanity.

The Hallway: Pretty Boring. Imagine hours pacing this, it’s a recipe for insanity.

The Hallway:
During weeks 1-8 when I was desperate to get Alex to sleep, or just to not cry, I would walk up and down the hallway for the majority of the night doing the walk, shush, bounce combo.  She liked it, it calmed the cries, and was great for my legs and arms.

Bounce, Bounce, Bounce

Bounce, Bounce, Bounce

The Ball:
I’ve had this exercise ball since 2010, but it has been used more in the last three weeks than in the last three years.  We discovered the magic of the ball a little late in the game. We can hold Alex upright and bounce on the ball and it can knock her out.  In fact, I call the ball the “death blow” because it puts her into a dead sleep.  I’ve spent hours bouncing on it.  She’s gotten wise to the ball though.  In the last week it’s lost some of its magic.  When it works it’s a great core workout.

Carrier = Alex Puddle

Carrier = Alex Puddle

The Carrier:
While Alex HATES riding in the car and not for a minute will a car ride put her to sleep, she LOVES swinging in her carrier.  I discovered this around week two when I had to take her to an appointment and she was in a complete meltdown.  The key to the carrier is making sure she is fully strapped in and then I swing her with a range of motion that is pretty close to 180 degrees.  If she’s the slightest bit drowsy this will knock her out.  It will also stop her screams during an unexplained meltdown.  This is our most effective technique but it also has the biggest drawbacks.

1)  If you stop she will generally wake up or start screaming again, sometimes instantly.

2)  I frequently bang the carrier into my shins and knees and have the bruises to prove it.

3)  It is exhausting.  The arm and back workout is ridiculous, you can work up a good lather in just a few minutes, exceeding 10 minutes is virtually impossible.

I have to take credit for Alex’s love of motion.  I ran until I was almost six months pregnant and walked on a treadmill everyday until the day before she was born.  They say that running/walking has a swinging feel to a baby inside you.

Oh well, it’s a great workout.  Who needs to go for a run when you have a ten week old?

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